Hangry Feb 22, 2020 How to feed nine billion people (Recipe below)

A gardener called Wahed advises us to rotate our garden crops. “Start with nitrogen-fixing legumes the first year. Follow with nitrogen-loving leafy vegetables the next year. Grow root crops the third year. Repeat.”

The most recent “State of Nature” report (UK, 2019) says, “It is well recognised that policies to protect biodiversity and the environment bring huge benefits to human well-being, from clean air and water, healthy soils for food production, and the health and well-being impacts that result from connection with nature.”

Sam Knight, in a recent New Yorker article, interviews Jake Fiennes. “Fiennes is the conservation manager of the Holkham Estate, one of Britain’s most important private landholdings. The estate covers about twenty-five thousand acres and includes a nature reserve, which is visited by almost a million people a year, and a farming business that grows potatoes, sugar beets, and barley.”

Fiennes cares about soil health for growing plenty of nutritious foods.  “He believes that farmers in the twenty-first century must cultivate as much as they can on their land—fungi for the soil, grasses for the pollinators, weeds for the insects, insects for the birds, pasture for the livestock—for the long-term goals of carbon capture and food production. ‘How do we feed the nine billion?’ Fiennes said. ‘We feed them through functioning ecosystems’.”

“Holkham was one of the birthplaces of the agricultural revolution. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the estate, which included some seventy farms, set new standards for food production, instituting regular four-course crop rotations, long-term leases, systematic breeding programs, and the use of cover crops, such as clover, which fix nitrogen in the soil. Though many of these techniques originated earlier, they were publicized to great effect by Thomas William Coke, a prominent politician. […] The ‘Norfolk rotation’ was replicated across Britain’s lowland farms and increased food production.”

Then came the wars and intensive agriculture. “Between 1935 and 1998, aided by chemicals, subsidies, heavy machinery, and crop science, British farmers more or less tripled their per-acre yields of wheat, oats, and barley. Milk production doubled. The amount of chicken meat offered for sale increased by a factor of twenty-five. Traditional farming methods, such as the Norfolk rotation, fell away. Many semi-natural habitats were drained or plowed under. An estimated ninety-seven per cent of hay meadows were lost. Between 1990 and 2010, the area of crops treated with pesticides in the U.K. increased by fifty per cent. The environmental damage caused by Britain’s intensive agriculture has only recently been properly understood.”

But Fiennes knew what he was seeing, and took action. “In 2002, Fiennes took a hundred and forty acres that had been drained in the sixties to plant crops, and used earthmovers to turn the area back into wetlands, which he used to graze cattle.  Birds that had been absent—lapwing, snipe, and marsh harriers—came rushing back. The marshes now have higher breeding rates than surrounding nature reserves.  ‘Everything is about edge,’ Fiennes said. Reserving margins of farmland for wetlands, wildlife, and flowers can restore the environment while increasing crop yields.”

Knight, S. (2020.) “Can farming make space for nature?” From https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/17/can-farming-make-space-for-nature

State of Nature report. (2019.) From https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf

Wahed. [n.d.} “All about Crop Rotation for Vegetable Gardens.” From https://thehyperionstore.com/all-about-crop-rotation-for-vegetable-gardens?fbclid=IwAR3kY71FT7cAwT2jC6y-LWt7e8Wwbte772Vlk-QBxeGzD0M6T55M0yERHRA

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